a double haiku:
even in the midst
of coronavirus fear
this earth speaks to me.
dirt beneath our feet
embraced by walls of red rock.
it’s beating my heart.
quiet. we walk in quiet most of the time. even our longer hikes are quiet. it is a time of rest for us, rest from the noise of the rest of life, the noise of worry and angst, the noise of dispute, the noise of too much bad news, the noise of chaos. we listen to the birds and our footfalls on the trail. we listen to the wind and the sound of creatures rustling in the underbrush. the quiet calms us; the quiet lifts the cellophane from the magic slate cardboard, it shakes the etch-a-sketch and takes it all back to zero, back to start, back to a rainwashed driveway waiting to be chalked all over again.
having run out of everest, k2 and annapurna footage we are watching appalachian trail and pacific crest trail and john muir trail videos these days. on our own treks locally we decide which one of these to take, listing the specific merits of each. make no mistake, these are serious treks. the AT is 2190 miles from georgia to maine. the PCT is 2653 miles from the border of mexico to the border of canada. the JMT, joining with the PCT some of the way, is 211 miles through the sierras, high elevation pass after pass. clearly, the training needed would be intense. but, as we envision this extended trekking, we are drawn to the quiet. the noise of this world has become raucous and the woods and the mountains seem to beckon with absolution, with grace, with rejuvenation.
there used to be a button on the cassette player that you could push that would quicken the pace of the tape to the end: fast forward. it would seem these trails, this quiet, like sleep, would fast forward through the dark and bring you to the light once again. these trails – this quiet – remind you that next comes.
and so, the noise of the day will cease. and you can listen to the sound of your footfall on a new day, ready to be chalked.
this painting is magical. it is the stuff of dreams, the stuff of hope, a vision of the future, the thready sharing of life and love. it looks more to me like flying than resting and, perhaps, as the wedding gift that d gave me four years ago today, it was prophetic. with the presence of mountains and a daisy, holding hands, embracing, perhaps dancing in flight, it is what we knew then.
what we know now is so much more.
our journey, our flight, together has, in its rawest form, a newness. meeting smack-dab in the middle of middle-age has its interesting elements. not that either of us is rigid…oh, no….of COURSE not. but when you are nigh 60 years old you do have your ways of doing things. add to that the fact that we are two artists artist-ing together. sheesh! there are some lively chats in these here parts. and to feel like you are starting over again – in your middle 50s – is time-warpy. there’s a lot to learn…but i guess that’s always true.
i have to say that i have never argued as much with another person. i’m quite sure that we agree the sign we purchased on our honeymoon in the mountains of colorado says it all, “you are my favorite pain in the ass.” it goes both ways. we definitely have a full-spectrum of emotions together. we are the best at disagreeing; we are the best team together.
i’m eternally grateful for this gift. i cannot adequately put this into words, so it must suffice that – this is the man i skip with.
i have no idea where this journey with mountains and daisies will take us. we are open to the mystery as we continue this amazing flight. allways. always. magical.
AND NOW ©️ 2015 david robinson
one of the gifts i received for my 60th birthday this week – an envelope with seed packets of lettuces in it, dirt and manure. on the outside of the envelope of seeds was this:
“to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” (audrey hepburn)
early november. moab, utah. i was standing on the precipice of a vast and deep canyon and was filled with wonder. My Girl encouraged me a bit further out, a bit higher. she was right to push me. the gorge inches away, unforgiving, i didn’t lose my breath until the very edge. but i breathed in so much more. i felt like ME. me, in my old hiking boots and ripped jeans, a couple black layered shirts and a vest, fingerless gloves linda made. ME. the air of the high desert mountains seemed to fill me and, as i stood there, pondering my very existence in this place, i felt renewed. a meeting ground, i could feel all the yesterdays that brought me there and the tomorrows that stretched forward. it is a spiritual place. she was right and i tied my heart to it just as she had predicted. the sun and i were each merely a tiny piece of the enormity. we watched day end and shadows paint the canyon walls until dark filled the void. we laughed uncontrollably. i cried. no matter what, the next day – tomorrow – would come to that place and sun would spackle the walls until it would -again- be light.
THIS will be the next album cover. in some tomorrow time. i wish to bring burning sun and immense canyons into that project. mountains and Spirit and old boots. a bow to yesterday and to tomorrow and the place inbetween. the air in me. i don’t know when or exactly how. i just know i need to somehow make the chance. i need to stand on the very edge, once again. it matters not whether i am relevant in these times. it just matters that i plant it. lettuce, here i come.
thank you to old friends who called or texted or FB-messaged me this week. i can’t begin to tell you what you mean to me. with love.
erle. ©️ 2019 kerri sherwood
OLD FRIENDS REVISITED from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood
while i laid awake, i tried to picture how i would react to someone literally placing me – without ropes – several hundred feet up a sheer granite wall, my hands gripping a crack and small outcropping, my feet perched on a slight deviation in the granite face. it made my hands sweat and my heart race thinking about how paralyzed by fear i would be, unable to move either hand or foot. THIS is out of my comfort zone. far out. and i couldn’t get the image out of my mind.
the wind was gusting about 35mph and there were tiny snow squalls on the way to madison. we were on our way to a movie theatre for a national geographic release of the movie FREE SOLO, the documentary capturing alex honnold’s successful free solo scaling of el capitan in yosemite. free solo. without benefit of any ropes or safety gear. just his hands, his feet, climbing chalk, and memorization, no – absolute physical retention – of the precise moves he would make on the way up this 3000′ beautiful monster.
alex doesn’t talk about his fear much. he, instead, speaks of enlarging his comfort zone, little by little. his somewhat unemotional approach to this challenge is daunting. one of his support team said words to the effect that alex had this challenge: like an olympic athlete he needed to win the gold. no ifs, ands or buts. it was the gold or he would fall to his death. who does that?!! the black and white of that makes my breathing pause. but alex pressed on. clearly his comfort zone is huge, that bubble around him. at least when it comes to mountains.
i know, as fascinated as i am with mountains and climbing stories of all sorts, that this is not something i could or would do. my mountains are different than that and my comfort zone bubble has more to do with my artistry, music, writing. not necessarily less scary, but certainly less physically demanding and clearly, without a doubt, less treacherous. but we are not limited to one mountain at a time.
each of us has this bubble and i picture pushing on the walls of the chrysalis, little by little conquering the fear of the outside – whatever the challenge or challenges – making our way, without ropes or safety equipment, into the next step of our lives. we try to “dream big.” we “go after it.” we “just do it.” but in reality, with no protective membrane around us, we first have to gear up, face fear vs comfort, garner courage and climb. yes. we free solo every day.
late yesterday afternoon, after a day spent working on computers and designs, with technology sluggishness taking over our souls, we headed to the woods to take a hike. any time we feel tired or ‘stuck’ we walk. around the ‘hood, along the lake, or to the starbucks about 2 and a half miles away. any time we feel exuberant or elated we walk. sometimes in the mountains (ahh!!) or in chicago or the third ward in milwaukee. any time we need a ‘business meeting’ we walk. mostly in the woods, in a county or state park. walking and breathing in fresh air brings us back to the moment. it re-centers us.
we hiked up the small rise in the woods, the light was waning and behind us the sky was deep deep orange. in the clearing beyond the stand of trees stood, very still, a deer. it was clearly the ‘lookout’ as way back in the field were six more deer, easy to count in the almost-dark as their white tails bobbed when the lookout gave the alert. we stood perfectly still watching this beauty, a magic moment in the woods. neither of us wanted to leave the spot. i took a picture, not because you can see the deer in it, but because it preserved the moment for me. i didn’t want to forget. because, as you already know, i am thready like that.
around me, every rock or feather or piece of wood or ticket stub or scrap of notepaper carries with it a specific moment – preserved in time. i could not necessarily tell the story of each of those moments – there are far too many for my synapse-challenged-brain to remember. but i know that each one had meaning for me. each one defined yet another piece of me, my relationship with someone i love, a time i shared with another being, a learning, a moment of sheer bliss, a moment of deep sadness. each moment renewed me and brought me to my next moment of living.
as i have moved through life one thing has become certain. that everything changes. nothing stays the same. life is in flux, always fluid. what more do we have than each moment as it arrives for us? i ask myself, “how do i want to spend this moment? what do i want to feel about this moment?” for i can never get it back. i can never re-do it. time has moved on. and so i must keep moving. i write about moments, i compose about moments, i tell stories about moments. for me, those details count. attempting to put succinctly (ha!) into words my philosophy-of-what-moments-mean is impossible; it is the umbrella that skies over everything else i believe, everything else i think.
when The Boy was little, he called the rearview mirror in cars the “review” mirror. particularly poignant i think. i have seen it written “don’t stare into the rearview mirror. that’s not the direction you are going.” instead i try (read: TRY) to review the past moments, learn from them, find grace in them, save the memory threads. and wholeheartedly embrace the ones to come. the moments. unique. in every way. i love this chicken marsala image.
this moment…unique…in every way ©️ 2016 david robinson & kerri sherwood
there is a spot when you are driving to colorado that – all of a sudden – the mountains come into view. they are far away, on the horizon, but their presence hits me to the core. every single time i catch my breath. every single time i get tears in my eyes. every single time i anticipate the air i feel there, the space, the vastness, the greatness, the majesty of those ever-present giants.
we come over the rise of the pass and i instantly weep. there in front of us are these incredible soaring heights of rock, dotted with gorgeous green pine trees, verdant aspens. every single time i catch my breath. every single time i weep. every single time i anticipate the air i feel there, the space, the vastness, the greatness, the majesty of those ever-present giants.
we sit in adirondack chairs in the snow, midway up a-basin, soaking in the sun, eating barbecue, listening to a band. in front of us, hundreds of spring skiers and boarders go past us – we virtually have front row seats. we watch the girl approach from the heights of the ski mountain…she gets closer, closer. her ability on that snowboard astounds us. she is one with it; her passion for the snow obvious in her huge laughter as she stops abruptly in front of us, deliberately and generously spraying us with snow and slush. i catch my breath as i look at my beautiful daughter, the mountains behind her, intense sun. i laugh, all the way from my heart, as i celebrate with her. this air, this space, this vastness, this greatness, this majesty.
one of our hikes was about 6 miles, half of that all uphill. not uphill like the little hill that used to be at the end of the road i grew up on, where you could not pedal all the way down and the momentum would take you all the way around the corner and beyond. no, this uphill is serious. i’m not sure of the elevation gain, but, after the hike, i would swear it paralleled everest. …ok, maybe not so much… regardless, it was uphill in snow. snow! we were hiking well into june and there was snow on this trail. lots of it. the air was clear and crisp. the sun dappled through the trees. (haven’t you always wanted to write that? “dappled through the trees.”) when you are on the mountain hiking, you aren’t as aware of the mountain, if that makes sense. (i remember one time out in the colorado mountains when i was heading to a concert venue and they gave me directions through high elevation plains. i drove along, wondering where the mountains had gone. when you are up on them, you don’t see them. so much like life, eh?) but when you are hiking and you come up to a clearing and there is a break in the trees and you can see beyond where you are standing, beyond the trail, beyond limitations, you can see that the mountains out there go on and on and on. we came upon such a clearing and i caught my breath. i didn’t want to turn around. i wanted to keep going and going. to see more of this space, this vastness, this great majesty.
we were driving down the mountain and came upon a lookout with a trailhead. stopping to get out and stretch our legs on the trail we took a few pictures. (this is a never-ending thing…there is an incredible photograph every other second. you have to be careful to not get lost behind the camera – sometimes you miss the moment that way.) the photographs looked not “real” – the beauty so …….what word is bigger than astounding? i stand and look out in amazement. tears of gratitude and joy and sheer life make me catch my breath. once again, that air, that space, that vastness, that greatness, the majesty. all right there.
it’s funny how when i write about these mountains, this place, i can’t seem to stay in the same tense. if she reads this, andrea will shake her head and wonder if i remember anything she taught me about writing back in high school. but there is something that dominates my need for tense-correctness in this writing. it’s the holding-on-feeling-it-still-ness of these moments. it confuses the tense use, but helps me – viscerally – like goose bumps on my skin – remember. so i will forgo correctness for anything to burn these golden moments – like a kiln with raku pottery – into my memory bank, open to draw upon any time i need to.
i cry a lot in the mountains. it’s always good. it’s Divine Intervention reminding me to breathe, touch, taste, see, feel each and every moment. they are vast and great and majestic. every one is our own mountain. and yes, they are calling.
it was the middle of the night and i woke up. like wide-awake waking up. but not the i-want-to-get-up-and-vacuum or anything kind of awake. just the lie-here-and-ponder kind. of course, after a while, that pondering gets, well, a little old, and i was wishing i could go back to sleep. counting sheep. counting the minutes (and the hours) as i watch the clock. counting hot flashes. counting my own breaths. counting the mosquitoes i can hear. counting – sheesh- anything trying to get back to sleep. somewhere in there, the night turned to early morning. and then i hear them. the loons. in the distance out on the lake somewhere up here in the north country there are loons gathered and i can hear their mournful cries, that gorgeous sound, the timbre of which is indescribable and yet, so recognizable. i listen. i am both reassured that all is well in the night and in the world right at this moment. i close my eyes and float with the loons. mmm…the gift of insomnia.
it was the middle of the night and i woke up. i had been sound asleep. we were all tired from a big family celebration. i rolled over and tried to get back to sleep, but the images from the day were hankering to be looked at again. so i laid in bed and thought about the whole day. the moments of hugs, the moments of hard work together making a party, the moments of laughter and great banter, the moments when looks of great love and history were exchanged between people who had been related forever and people who are newly related. i partied through the party once again, this time in my mind’s eye, this time meandering a little more slowly through the precious moments. mmm…the gift of insomnia.
it was the middle of the night and i woke up. i had been sound asleep, the sound-asleep kind of sleep that comes from drinking in the mountains all day and weeping at every turn. i was so overwhelmed with the beauty of the day and the drive through passes, thousands of feet above sea level (with, by the way, no guardrails.) sheer majesty. i laid awake and reviewed the drive. each bend of the road. each steep ascent, each use-the-brake descent. i could feel the air on my face, i could hear the rustle of aspens, and i could smell the crisper-than-the-crispness-of-a-fresh-apple-off-the-tree air. i close my eyes and can see those mountains. mmm…the gift of insomnia.
it was the middle of the night and i woke up. i was surprised because i had spent a good part of the day hiking and outside in the superbly fresh mountain air. my sprained-not-too-long-ago ankle was aching and i had those good aches that come with having really great exercise. i tried to go back to sleep, but i already missed the mountains, even though i was still there. they are glorious. they are alive. they make me alive. i closed my eyes and reached out my arms to hug them. mmm…the gift of insomnia.
the middle of the night can challenge me. like you, i can find myself reviewing and worrying and worrying and did-i-mention-worrying? but tonight i will wake up – again – in the middle of the night. and i wonder what gift i will find there.